Germany: The Reluctant World Power?

Is Germany using the debt crisis to dominate Europe? That is what some Europeans
think. But Germany's position in Europe is what its neigbors wanted after World War II.

by Paul Kieffer
February 24, 2012

Robert Schuman
 France's foreign secretary Robert Schuman
 proposed the European coal and steel union.
Konrad Adenauer
 Germany's Konrad Adenauer was Schuman's
 partner in establishing a new Europe.

Judging by the reactions to the negotiations on approving loans to stabilize the euro, Europe's old fears about a strong Germany seem to be reawakening. Angry demonstrators in Athens call Germany's leaders "Nazis," while the British press claims that Germany is using the euro crisis to fulfill its old but long suppressed dream of having an empire of its own.

In a commentary on Germany's position during last summer's negotiations on a new loan for debt-plagued Greece, a Daily Telegraph columnist claimed that Germany was on the verge of fulfilling Bismarck's old dream of a German economic empire in Europe. That empire would see southern European countries like Greece and Portugal – and later Spain and Italy, too – become "deindustrialized." As a source of cheap labor and raw materials, they would become de facto German colonies as Germany transforms itself into one of the world's most efficient and productive economies.

According to the Daily Telegraph, today's situation in Europe is very similar to the one following the Wall Street stock market crash of October 1929. The resulting worldwide depression brought the Weimar Republic to its knees, providing German fascism a boost. In view of this historical precedent the Daily Telegraph sees the potential for big changes in Europe arising from the current crisis ("The euro crisis will give Germany the empire it's always dreamed of," July 21, 2011).

One month afer the Daily Telegraph commentary the British mass circulation Daily Mail expressed its concern over growing teutonic power on the European continent. Claiming that Germany is using the financial crisis to conquer Europe, the Daily Mail reported that a German "fourth reich" is on the horizon.

"If the euro is to survive – and with it the European project – the other 16 Eurozone countries will have to be like the Germans. Indeed, they must lose the freedom not to be like the Germans. That means a complete fiscal union in which Germany, as the EU's most powerful economy and principal paymaster, makes the rules and makes them unbreakable. Be in no doubt what fiscal union means: it is one economic policy, one taxation system, one social security system, one debt, one economy, one finance minister. And all of the above would be German" ("Rise of the Fourth Reich, how Germany is using the financial crisis to conquer Europe," August 17, 2011).

In an article published before January's EU summit meeting in Brussels on the euro crisis, the Daily Mail continued its anti-German rhetoric. In a reference to the organizational structure used by Nazi Germany, the newpaper described Berlin's suggestion to have a European official oversee the Greek economy as assigning a "Gauleiter" for Greece (January 28, 2012). Germany's Bild newspaper had earlier quoted the Daily Mail description of conquest by German economic domination: "In the past military conquest would have been necessary to get rid of the leadership in a European country. Today it happens via economic pressure. With help from their French allies the Germans caused a regime change in two of the most troublesome eurozone countries" – Greece and Italy (November 9, 2011).

Germany's leadership role within the eurozone

Coming from the United Kingdom, comments like those cited seem odd since the country is not a eurozone member and in all likelihood never will be. British prime minister David Cameron has made it clear that his country will not participate in financial support for the euro and will not be part of the proposed fiscal union of eurozone and other EU members.

Germany cannot shirk the responsibility that Britain is unwilling to bear for solving the euro crisis. German chancellor Angela Merkel has said repeatedly that the collapse of the common currency would also mean the end of the "European experiment," as she calls it. Germany has been committed to the vision of a unified Europe from the beginning, and Germany's participation in preserving the euro is consistent with that vision. The permanent "European Stability Mechanism" (ESM) which takes effect on July 1, 2012 will be a € 500 billion fund, and Germany's contribution to the fund is € 190 billion.

Even though Germany is committed to preserving the euro, David Cameron criticized Germany at the January World Economic Forum meeting in Davos, Switzerland. Cameron said Germany has to do even more to help provide a lasting solution for the current eurozone crisis. In Cameron's view, Germany needs to do more to stimulate its own economy, which in turn would provide an economic boost for other eurozone members as more of their products would be exported to Germany.

Criticial comments from the British press and prime minister are actually a reflection on the key role that Germany has assumed in the eurozone. With its economy being by far the largest among eurozone members, Germany's current role was predictable from the beginning.

However, Berlin did not seek its leadership role in the currency union. On the contrary: Germany's European partners – especially France – wanted it to participate in the eurozone. For France, German membership in the currency union (euro) meant the end of the German mark's dominance among European currencies and further integration of Germany within Europe.

On the 20th anniversary of German unification, the news magazine Der Spiegel reported on the alleged gentlemen's agreement between French president Francois Mitterand and German chancellor Helmut Kohl at the time of the "four-plus-two" talks that formally ended World War II and paved the way for unification. The Spiegel report shows Mitterand with a clear position as the talks began: "The Germans are facing an important choice. Germany can only hope for reunification if it stands in a strong community."

According to former Mitterand advisor Hubert Védrine, "Mitterrand did not want any reunification without progress on European integration. And the only ground that was prepared for that was the [common] currency." Former German Bundesbank president Karl-Otto Pöhl adds: "The European monetary union may never have taken place without German unification" (Der Spiegel, 39/2000).

With Germany being more securely integrated within Europe via the currency union, Mitterand's concerns about his neighbor – soon to be much larger as a result of unification – were dispelled. Germany's role in the ongoing euro crisis is not the result of any desire on the part of German leaders for Germany to establish itself as a world power. Instead, it is the natural result of Germany's integration within the eurozone, which is what Germany's neighbors wanted from the start.

The origin of today's French-German partnership

Prior to each recent euro crisis summit meeting, Angela Merkel and French president Nicolas Sarkozy met to coordinate their position for the summit. The joint position then became an agenda item for the meeting. Since France insisted on Germany being a member of the monetary union, achieving a common French-German position for euro summit meetings is consistent with the integration France desired for Germany from the beginning.

Berlin and Paris working in tandem today continues the pattern established more than 60 years ago of cooperation between France and Germany to promote European unity. By getting involved in "project Europe" after World War II, both countries were determined to eliminate the problems of competition and hostility that resulted from strong national states vying for dominance in Europe.

The driving force on the French side was foreign minister Robert Schuman, who sought reconciliation with France's old enemy and its integration into a European patchwork. In retrospect Schuman seems to have been predestined for his role. When Germany annexed Alsace-Lorraine in 1871 after defeating France on the battlefield, his father became a German citizen. Thus Schuman was born as a German citizen in 1886. He earned his law degree in Germany and then practiced law in Metz while being assigned to a German reserve army unit. When Alsace-Lorraine was returned to French sovereignty in 1919, he became a French citizen for the first time, but without any residual hate for Germany.

Five years after Germany's armed forces surrendered to the allies, Schuman – now France's foreign minister – proposed the creation of a European coal and steel union that was the first step toward a postwar united Europe. The Schuman declaration of May 9, 1950 stated:

"[A united] Europe cannot be created with a single stroke, nor by means of a simple combination. It will arise via concrete steps that first create a unity of action . . . For this purpose the French government proposes taking action on a limited but decisive point . . . Combining coal and steel production will immediately create a common basis for ensuring economic development and be the first step towards a European federation."

Schuman's proposal caused a sensation. "The announcement of the Schuman plan was a welcome message for the generation that had suffered through World War II and now had hope that another war among European brothers would not – and could no longer – break out. As stated in the Schuman declaration, combining heavy industry – which was also the industry of armaments – would make a war between France and Germany materially impossible. A grave was thereby dug for the centuries-old enmity between the two neighboring countries, and with its gravestone a foundation was laid for unifying Europe" (Franz Herre, A wie Adenauer, Stuttgart, Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt, 1997, pages 67-68).

Thirteen years after making his proposal Schuman described the approach he took: "One could not presume to present a European economic proposal immediately and implement it on all levels. Because of the technical complications and the insufficient mental preparation one had to proceed in stages" (Schuman, Für Europa, Hamburg, Nagel, 1963).

Schuman made no attempt to disguise his goal of integrating the German national state in an international European partnership, thereby preventing Germany from pursuing hostile plans toward its neighbors. Just five months prior to making his proposal for a coal and steel union, Schuman addressed this topic in a speech given in Brussels:

"The result of Germany's membership in a [proposed] European organisation – if it subjugates this country to the needs of the whole community – will be its rehabilitation and a guarantee for us . . . It places the German potential for intellect and work in the service of Europe and Germany benefits itself from the intellectual und material potential that Europe provides in such a community . . . Germany is the most dangerous when it is left to itself and its fearful and destructive state of unrest" (December 18, 1949; emphasis added).

Germany's integration in today's European Union is hardly the result of its desire to achieve a European empire. Instead, it is just the place where Germany's neighbors – France uppermost – wanted it to be.

The historic roots of today's Europe

Schuman's partner in integrating Germany within a European framework was German chancellor Konrad Adenauer. Both men were Christian democrats. "Political friends and opponents alike referred to them as Carolingians because they sought to create a new Europe [after World War II] with a Christian spirit, initially on the territory of the old Carolingian empire" (A wie Adenauer, page 66; emphasis added).

The Carolingian kingdom of Charlemagne provided a vision of a future united Europe after the war. After all, his kingdom had united the ancestors of the French and Germans, who descendants had waged war against each other three times in the seven decades prior to 1945.

"It was in the court of Charles the Great [or Charlemagne] that the ancient term of 'Europe' was revived." So wrote British historian Norman Davies in his 1996 History of Europe (page 302). "The Carolingians [the noble family of the Franks after whom France is named and who ruled in Western Europe following the fall of the Western Roman Empire] needed a label to describe that section of the world which they dominated, as distinct from the pagan lands, from Byzantium [the Eastern Roman Empire, which still continued as a Christian state], or from Christendom as a whole. This 'first Europe', therefore, was an ephemeral Western concept which lasted no longer than Charles himself" (ibid.).

Charlemagne was not the first or last ruler to seek unity in Europe. After the fall of the Roman Empire in the fifth century, there had been a continuous need for unity. Chaos and confusion, often referred to as "the Dark Ages," followed the demise of the empire, with barbaric warring tribes moving into previously civilized areas.

In the sixth century, the Eastern Roman Emperor Justinian, who ruled from Constantinople (modern Istanbul, Turkey), tried to revive the Roman Empire in the West. He was partially successful, but his dream did not survive him.

In the eighth century, Muslim Arabs invaded Spain and rapidly moved north, arriving not far from Paris only 21 years later. Here, at the famous Battle of Tours in 732 (also known as the Battle of Poitiers, the place near Tours where it was actually fought), the Muslims were defeated by Charlemagne's grandfather, Charles Martel. The western Christendom of the Roman church was threatened. It's no wonder that Charlemagne was crowned by the pope, who saw the need for a western emperor just as there was an emperor in the east.

Historian John Bowle notes that "the event was crucial in European history, for the revived Western Empire would continue, in medieval times 'Holy' as well as Roman, and in theory dominate European politics until the days of [Emperor] Charles V in the sixteenth century; then . . . continue until . . . 1806, when Napoleon abolished it" (A History of Europe, 1979, page 170).

Clearly a regular theme has run through European history – that of a desire for a united Europe in the tradition of the Romans. In fact, it goes even further than that. The desire has been for a united Europe in tandem with the Church of Rome, just as in the late Roman Empire.

The biblical perspective on Europe's future

The events in Europe are following a historical pattern – an attempt to unite the Spanish and Italians, Germans and Slavs, French and Scandinavians into one empire.

The prophet Daniel was given divine inspiration to reveal the meaning of a prophetic dream. In Daniel 2 the prophet tells of four successive empires, including one that will be ruling at the time of the coming of the Messiah to establish God's Kingdom on earth. Comparing history with other prophecies, we see that these four kingdoms were, in order, the Babylonian, Medo-Persian, Greco-Macedonian and Roman empires.

Speaking of the fourth and final kingdom, Daniel said it would be "strong as iron, inasmuch as iron breaks in pieces and shatters everything; and like iron that crushes, that kingdom will break in pieces and crush all the others" (verse 40). The Roman Empire indeed proved to be more dominant than the previous three, swallowing up their remnants in a reign that lasted for centuries.

Daniel also revealed fascinating prophetic details of this final kingdom. He said the legs and feet of the image in Nebuchadnezzar's dream represented a kingdom, later shown to be the Roman Empire. The image had feet and toes composed "partly of potter's clay and partly of iron" (verse 41). This indicated that "the kingdom shall be divided" and "partly strong and partly fragile" (verses 41-42). Further, "just as iron does not mix with clay," the components of this kingdom would not firmly hold together for long (verse 43).

Then, describing the return of Jesus Christ and His overthrow of all human kingdoms and governments, Daniel says that "in the days of these kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed . . . ; it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever" (verse 44).

Specifically, "these kings" here are a group of 10 leaders united in an end-time union or alliance. Daniel's prophecy indicates that, because of different cultures and languages, this final superpower will not be one tightly integrated group of states, such as the United States, but divergent entities united for a common purpose. Some will no doubt be much stronger than others.

The last book of the Bible, the book of Revelation, reveals additional details about this end-time alliance. Chapter 17 provides a symbolic description of a religious political system that corresponds to the iron portion of Nebuchadnezzar's image in Daniel 2.

Verses 1-3 describe a "great whore," the Bible's symbol for false religion. (By contrast, God's true church is always described as a virgin.) The whore sits on "a scarlet beast" verse 3, picturing cooperation between church and state. Politics and religion have been inseparable through almost 1,700 years of European history following the conversion of the Emperor Constantine to Roman Catholicism in the early years of the fourth century.

When the apostle John saw this future religious and political system, represented by a fallen woman riding a beast, he "marveled with great amazement" (verse 6). An angel then explained to him that "the beast that you saw was, and is not, and will ascend out of the bottomless pit." Others "will marvel . . . when they see the beast that was, and is not, and yet is" (verse 8).

What is the meaning of such strange wording? The fact that this beast "was, and is not, and yet is" tells us that the Roman Empire, which does not exist at this time, will be restored. It "was," meaning it existed at one time, it "is not," meaning it did not exist at the time John received his vision, and it "yet is" and "will ascend out of the bottomless pit", meaning that it will rise yet again.

Verses 12-13 tell us more about this political-religious union of "ten kings [leaders] who have received no kingdom as yet, but they receive authority for one hour [a short time] as kings with the beast. These are of one mind, and they will give their power and authority to the beast." The "ten kings" who transfer their authority for "one hour" to the beast are the restoration of verse 8 that "will ascend out of the bottomless pit."

When will that take place? Verse 14 shows us the clear time setting for this prophecy and establishes the connection between the "ten kings" and the ten toes of the iron kingdom in Daniel 2: "These will make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them." The ten kings go to battle against Jesus Christ. The short period of their reign is cut short by Jesus' return (see Revelation 11:15).

The Lamb is none other than Jesus Christ. He has not returned yet, so the fulfillment of this prophecy of 10 leaders or rulers who are part of this end-time empire is still in the future. But, clearly, at the time of the end of man's rule, there is to be a revived Roman Empire. It will oppose the true Jesus Christ, and its armies will literally fight Him at His return! Jesus also represents the stone made without human hands in Daniel 2 that strikes the image upon its feet.

So Daniel 2, verses 40-44 and Revelation 17, verses 12-14 describe the same event: The returning Jesus Christ establishes a new world order and terminates the existence of the final resurrection of the Roman Empire that is formed by a union of ten kings. It might seem hard to believe, but this prophecy describes Europe's future!

Viewed from this perspective, the roots of the European Union are interesting. The January 29, 1996, issue of Newsweek reported: "In January 1957, six nations signed a treaty on the site of the ancient Roman Capitol, and brought into being the European Economic Community . . . An aide to Paul-Henri Spaak, the Belgian foreign minister at the time, remembers that his boss said, 'Do you think that we have laid the first stone of a new Roman Empire?' Recalls the aide, 'We felt very strongly we were Romans that day.' "

Germany as the motor of Europe

The claim that Germany is pursuing an old dream of establishing an empire is ridiculous. On the other hand, today's Germany, committed to the success of the "European experiment" and solidly entrenched within its framework (as desired by her neighbors), does not hesitate to voice its opinion on European affairs.

Charles Kupchan, professor at Georgetown University and author of the book The End of the American Era: U.S. Foreign Policy and the Geopolitics of the Twenty-First Century, describes modern Germany's attitude: "As part of its postwar policy of reassurance and reconciliation, Bonn for decades treaded lightly on diplomacy and defense. Since 1999, however, when the seat of government moved back to Berlin, symbolizing a renewed self-confidence, Germany has been actively guiding the EU's evolution, marking out a pathway for building a federal Europe."

Within the EU, Germany is the biggest trading partner of each of its member nations. A strong European economy without a strong German economy isn't going to happen. Although some Europeans might be uneasy about a strong unified Germany – as evidenced by the quotes at the beginning of this article – the creation of a European political and economic union without German participation is unthinkable.

Europeans realize that, too. To whom do they look for support in solving the eurozone sovereign debt crisis? On whom will they rely in similar situations in the future? The Germans.

For a better understanding of Bible prophecy, I recommend the free booklet You Can Understand Bible Prophecy, available free of charge upon request.

• Paul Kieffer, February 24, 2012